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Succession: Season 2 Episode 4 (Safe Room) - Review

Succession: Season 2

Review by Rob Carnevale

IndieLondon Rating: 5 out of 5

FOR all the dark humour running through this latest episode of Succession, it was a scene right at the end that really underlined the brilliance of this series.

A conversation took place between Jeremy Strong’s Kendall and his sister Shiv (Sarah Snook), in which the depths of the former’s personal despair were heartbreakingly exposed for all to see. In true Succession form, however, it was done in such an understated, minimalist style that it felt all the more real and poignant for it.

The meeting seemed designed for Shiv to try and better understand the new closeness that seems to exist between Kendall and his father, Logan (Brian Cox), to better gauge her own position within the company given that she has previously been verbally promised the keys to the Waystar kingdom.

But Kendall, wary as ever, could see her coming. Midway through their exchange, a tearful Kendall assures her, regarding the succession, that ‘it’s not going to me’, before accepting a rare gesture of compassion in a hug.

It was a small moment by the Roy family standards. And it didn’t last long. Kendall didn’t break down any further. Shiv didn’t reassure him things would be okay. True intentions remained cloudy. But in those few moments, viewers were left in little doubt as to how devastated a man Kendall has become.

The pain stems from his inability to come to terms with his part in the death of an innocent man at his sister’s wedding – events which closed the first season and brought an abrupt end to his bid to take over the company.

But while others have moved on, Kendall is lost. His sole reason to exist, it would seem, is to be of use to his dad… to feel needed. Strong has since admitted in an interview that Kendall now inhabits a place of brokenness and grief, in which he just lives.

He added: “I immediately thought of The Manchurian Candidate and trying to create this almost somnambulistic, just dead-eyed soldier who’s been weaponised, who’s been made to cross further and further his own moral and ethical lines.”

It begs the question… is there a way back? Can Kendall be talked down from the ledge? A final, haunting – and still desperately sad – image saw Kendall return to the rooftop he had previously been walking on to look down upon the vastness below. It was a silent moment… but a telling one.

If ever there were any doubts that Succession lacks humanity in its depiction of the Roy family, then this scene dispelled them. Kendall emerged from it as the man still worth rooting for, no matter how much he remains at odds with himself, or how keen he is to appease his father and carry out those orders. There is a man struggling to survive and maybe, just maybe, eventually do the right thing.

What made the scene perhaps even more effective was its positioning in an episode that otherwise went down as one of the most funny of the two series combined so far. There were cutting lines, barbed comments, awkward, excruciating conversations throughout… it was awful, at times, but laugh out loud so.

A gag involving a late character named ‘Mo’ was brilliantly realised at a funeral, as the girlfriend of Connor Roy’s political wannabe attempted to express her condolences to the deceased’s wife, only to be ushered away and informed that his name wasn’t ‘Mo’, but rather Lester… a nickname that seemed funny at the time given that Roy Snr would never let his children get in the pool with him. But those were different times!

Similarly guffaw inducing was Tom (Matthew Macfadyen)’s painful attempt to cut to the truth of the fascist rumours surrounding ATN star newsman Mark Ravenhead… a dog named after Hitler’s (but not spelt the same way), a confession that he had read Mein Kampf twice, and an admittance that his main regret over the Second World War was the millions of lives lost by Germans, Russians and Poles. Cut to a consternated Tom, who added: “You seem to be missing a few million there…”

Once again, Macfadyen played this episode beautifully, flitting between heinous corporate bully to self-loathing wannabe worthy of some sympathy. It’s becoming an almost weekly battle, trying to decide whether to like or loathe Tom. But the viewers sentiments are cleverly echoed in Tom’s own feelings about himself, it would seem.

Other Tom highlights stemmed from his turning on Greg and abusing him with water bottles (over the mere suggestion that the two should take a break from each other, culminating in the “I will not let go of what is mine!” line), and his odd pride in eventually being blackmailed by Greg into awarding him a fast-tracked promotion. His congratulations were delivered with equal parts loathing and admiration, brilliantly so.

As ever with Succession, so much happened and there were so many, many scenes to savour. But they only served to create yet another rich tapestry of an episode that underlined the brilliance of the show’s writing and the A-grade acting.

It’s brutal, intelligent, piercing and funny… and now thanks to that final scene, also poignant and heart-breakingly tragic.

Read our verdict on the previous episode